Finally, it’s early May in western Oregon and everyone is getting excited to plant their tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers squash and other tender, annual vegetables. As you may know there is a serious uptick in the number of people planting gardens this year due to the “stay at home” orders, and food insecurity issues.
(No clue what I’m talking about? Check out these articles: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/25/dining/victory-gardens-coronavirus.html
For folks new to gardening, or just those who have had mixed success with growing those amazing, tender annuals in the cooler regions of North America, this post is for you.
When the daytime temperatures are warming into the 70s, the time is ripe to get your garden plots ready. Some crops, like spinach, broccoli, and carrots, can certainly be planted now but don’t plant your tomatoes and peppers just yet.
Usually sometime in April you will start seeing plants like tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers in the nurseries and garden centers. But in the Maritime Pacific Northwest (MPNW), we should not be planting these crops in April without a greenhouse or some aggressive crop protection techniques. May 1-20th is the last frost free date for much of the MPNW, and while you may be able to plant out in the unprotected outdoors in early to mid-May, that doesn’t mean you should.
Let’s walk through the planting guidelines some of the specific summer crops.
Tomatoes are one of the heartiest of the summer annuals. If they don’t get frosted they can survive some cooler days and nights, but they will not begin strong growth until daytime and soil temperatures warm considerably. Check your last frost date, your local forecast, and your garden soil temperatures to pick the appropriate planting date.
Peppers are similar in their heartiness to tomatoes, but require even more heat than tomatoes to actually grow. Without enough heat units you may set your peppers back, and fail to get ripe fruit by the end of the season. We suggest waiting one more week after planting your tomato and recommend looking into some row cover to keep your peppers a bit warmer at night.
Unlike the Solanaceous crops, cucumbers are not hearty at all. If soil temperatures are not 55 or warmer, consistently, they will die off after planting. Though you may see healthy looking cucumbers at local stores, don’t be fooled. Those cucumbers were recently delivered from a heated greenhouse, and given another 2-5 days sitting in the cool damp spring weather, they will begin to wither and eventually die. We strongly recommend taking the temperature of your soil to be sure that the time is right in your own garden. (Check out this video for an easy DIY: https://todayshomeowner.com/video/how-to-test-soil-temperature-in-your-garden/)
So, when should you actually plant?
Our ideal planting dates for the Maritime Pacific Northwest are as follows:
May 20-Memorial Day: Tomatoes, squash, green beans
June 1-7: Peppers, cucumbers, melons.
A final note:
You can get tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash into the fields earlier than these dates with the right tools and techniques. Small hoop houses, low tunnels, cold frames, row covers, black plastic, water insulators, cloches and other tools can give crops a warming boost that can get them started a week or two earlier.
All that said, patience has proven to be the most effective and cost-conscious approach in our fields, and we promise that patience will yield you far more success in every garden season.
We’re thrilled to be getting our hands back in the dirt with the growing season in sight. If you have questions about any of our seeds or starts, or another garden topic, please reach out!